Activities

CBI is a program that operates within the University of Connecticut’s School of Engineering in collaboration with a multidisciplinary team of academic and industrial partners. CBI will coordinate a variety of activities, as shown in the following figure. Phase I of the CBI includes ongoing activities (highlighted in red), while the remaining activities are planned for the future.

The Brownfield Corps is a student-centered service learning program that will work synergistically with the Climate Corps, an existing collaboration between three academic programs: Environmental Science, Environmental Studies and Environmental Engineering.

The core concept of the program is that a cohort of undergraduate students will attend a year-long program, which involves one semester of training in the classroom and one semester of application on brownfield projects in collaboration with CT towns.

Climate Corps students (left) provide testimonies to a town council of UConn faculty (right) in a role playing exercise involving a coastal flooding zone

Students will take an interdisciplinary course (Brownfield Redevelopment)  that has been developed specifically for CBI. It covers the following aspects: regulatory and liability issues, urban planning, funding mechanisms and grant proposal writing, fundamentals of site investigation and remediation. This course is designed so that students of any background can take it, attracting diverse disciplines. In addition to this core course, CBI will engage with courses offered through a variety of programs that are relevant to components of brownfield projects.

For example, engineering students may also take the existing course ENVE 4530 Geoenvironmental Engineering, which covers all technical aspects of site investigation and cleanup. The coursework will prepare students for the practicum portion of the program, during which they will be working with CT municipalities on real life brownfield projects.

Project Types and Partnerships

The core CBI mission is to provide support for municipalities that have limited resources to pursue redevelopment of abandoned properties with no identifiable responsible party. Thus, student projects will support town projects. However, participation of industrial partners in the projects will be crucial for success, in the form of providing guidance and mentoring student teams.

For project recruitment, an annual Request for Proposals (RFP) will be issued by CBI and distributed to cities and towns, likely in October, when the enrollment of students in the brownfield courses has finalized. The submitted proposals will be reviewed by the CBI Advisory Board and projects will be selected according to the following criteria:

  • Number of projects that can be accommodated by the available students (3 students per project, 2 for smaller projects)
  • Match between student backgrounds and nature of projects
  • Data availability and extent of project; suitability as a student project
  • Urgency (e.g., deadline for federal grant applications)

Examples of potential projects suitable for students include:

  • Assisting towns with creation of redevelopment plans to attract potential developers (preparation of alternative site designs with visuals)
  • Assisting towns with preparation of grant proposals for site investigation or cleanup
  • Partial Phase I investigations for town-owned abandoned sites
  • Preparation of draft Phase II sampling plans or remedial action plans under the supervision of environmental consultants
  • Review and planning for specific aspects such as floodplains or wetlands on Brownfield sites

Timeline

The first Brownfield Corps cohort has signed up for the Fall semester 2018, beginning in August. Thirty-two students of diverse disciplines are currently enrolled in the course. During Spring 2018, the course curriculum will be developed, including assembling materials and recruiting guest speakers from local government and industry on practical aspects of the course. Initial contacts with municipalities to advertise the program and recruit potential projects will also be made. Funding is projected to continue the program for another two years in order to foster growth and success.

Broader Impacts

The impact of CBI activities extends to multiple constituencies.

Students: UCONN students will have the unique opportunity to obtain specific training and practical experience on Brownfield issues. The Brownfield Corps program is unique in the country in terms of academic training. Students will have the opportunity to interact with future employers, obtain OSHA training that increases their competitiveness in the environmental market and differentiate themselves from their peers at other institutions.

Public: CBI will provide much-needed resources to CT towns that deal with limited staff and problems of great complexity, and help create additional opportunities for funding and progress. Ultimately, redevelopment of Brownfield benefits the public by removing blight, improving quality of life in urban neighborhoods and contributing to economic development in the state.

Industry: Members of CBI that are directly involved in student training and projects will have the opportunity to mentor and recruit the next generation of employees. CBI networking and training activities will offer continuing education to existing employees as well as opportunities to shape policy in the area of Brownfield redevelopment. Finally, CBI will support economic development in the state, a key benefit associated with Brownfield redevelopment.